The events giving rise to this claim began on May 10, 2002, at Clinton
Correctional Facility. At trial of the action, Claimant testified that on the
day in question, he worked for 12 hours in the mess hall (from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00
p.m.). Sometime during that day, his radio — a “Model 88" that had
cost $164.00 – was stolen from his cell. He immediately informed the A
Gallery officer, who said that he would advise the Block Sergeant of the theft.
The following day, May 11, Claimant received a tip on the whereabouts of his
radio and conveyed that information to the mess hall Sergeant.
On the 11th,
Claimant was working the chow line in the mess hall, but he was removed quickly
when a dispute arose after an inmate named Castelanno came in. Correction
Officer Ludwig, who advised Claimant to take the day off and
“chill,” escorted him back to his cell. When he arrived on the
cellblock, he noted that all of the porters had left. He lay on the cot in his
cell, with his head near the bars, to take a nap. While he was sleeping,
someone threw hot oil on him, burning him badly. He wrote a note for someone to
give to an officer to come to his assistance and estimated that he had to wait,
in agony, for almost 30 minutes before help arrived. Claimant suffered second
degree burns to the right side of his face, top of his head, the right side of
his neck, right shoulder (front and back), right hand, and in three places on
his left forearm (Exhibit 1). It was evident from several of Claimant’s
comments that he thought the assailant was Castelanno.
Jeff Ludwig testified that at some time on May 10, 2002 he was made aware that a
radio had been stolen. His account of Claimant’s removal from the chow
line differed somewhat from that given by Claimant. He stated, both at trial
and in a memorandum written approximately fifteen months after the incident
that he had ordered Claimant to leave the line and escorted him back to his cell
after Claimant began accusing various other inmates of having stolen his radio
causing tensions to build. No misbehavior reports were issued, but Officer
Ludwig determined that there was potential for a fight and that Claimant needed
to be removed for his own safety.
Correction Officer Jeffrey White testified
that he was informed of the injuries to Claimant when another inmate passed a
note to him, at approximately 11:05 p.m. on May 11. He immediately went to
Claimant’s cell, observed the extensive burns and, after notifying the
Sergeant in charge of the area, escorted Claimant to the hospital.
White’s testimony was consistent with a statement that he wrote to the
Sergeant on the night of the incident (Exhibit 5).
The State of New York
has a duty to protect inmates in its custody against foreseeable harm, including
a foreseeable risk of assault by other inmates, but it is not an insurer of
inmate safety (Sebastiano v State of New York
, 112 AD2d 562 [3d Dept
1985]). The duty requires the State to use reasonable care to protect against
risks of which it was aware or should have been aware (Sanchez v State of New
, 99 NY2d 247 ).
Although there is no doubt that Claimant was
burned very badly and painfully, in the manner he describes, he has failed to
present any evidence to support a conclusion that prison officials knew, or
should have known, that an attack of this nature might happen. Even if, as
Claimant suspects, the attack was a result of the confrontation between him and
Castelanno, there was nothing to suggest that such a violent attack was a
Inasmuch as Claimant failed to prove, by a
preponderance of the credible evidence, that the State was negligent in
providing for Claimant’s safety or that any negligence on the
State’s part was a proximate cause of his injuries, Claim No. 106806 is
Let judgment be entered accordingly.